OMGosh….you are moving to KOREA.
WHAT?!? That wasn’t on our list.
Freak-out mode starts.
The only thing you have heard about Korea is how much it stinks and how far away it is.
Relax. I’m here to tell you that Korea is one of the hidden gems of the Army.
It truly is the “Land of the Morning Calm.”
Now pull up your boot straps and get ready for the ride of your life.
I’ll answer some of the most common questions I have received from people over the years and I will do my best to answer these questions open and honestly. I will be answering them from an Army spouse point of view. I know there are a few differences for each branch. NOW, please note these are MY OWN thoughts and ideas. And beware that I am an optimist. I try to see the good in everything and I try to make the most out of every duty station – not only for me, but for my family, friends and all I come in contact with. In fact it seems that after talking to a few friends lately they mentioned how much I LOVED Ft. Hood. I had to do a double take and ask them if they were talking to me. Me, LOVE Ft. Hood? Now that makes me laugh. It's all perspective baby, all perspective!
Let's dive into Korea, which I do love. After being with my husband in this thing we call an Army life for over 21 years Korea has been my hands down FAVORITE duty station (Fort Hood has been my least favorite - are you surprised?).
We just got orders to Korea and we are moving in 6 weeks! What do I do I do first?
2. Have a glass of wine. I don’t care what time it is. Sit down and have a drink.
3. Breathe again.
4. Get ready to have the time of your life!
Do the houses come furnished? I know we can't bring all of our stuff and I wouldn't anyways but I don't even know where to start. What is the housing like there?
Let’s start with ‘what is the housing like?’ - SMALL. VERY SMALL. There are 6 of us in a 4 bedroom that is about 1200 square feet. Thank God we love each other.
Next up- what you are not allowed to bring - you are NOT ALLOWED to bring big appliances like washer, dryer, refrigerator and freezer. (I did bring a mini fridge for drinks!) Post provides all of these things.
Post will also supply all big furniture if you choose not to bring your own. Items they have for your use - broken down by rooms:
Dining room: Table, chairs, buffet, china cabinet.
Living Room: Very uncomfortable couch & chairs, bookshelf, end tables, coffee table and desk.
Bedrooms: beds – Queen for master, twins for kids rooms – they also have some bunk beds and they provide
mattresses. Some people complain about the mattresses, but for our family they work just fine. (Just as a side note, king size beds do NOT FIT in most of the apartments on post and if you do by some miracle get it up your staircase, you will only have a bed in your room. True story.) They also provide per room, night stands, dresser, chest of drawers, and mirror.
Since you have an express shipment, a regular shipment, stuff you want to bring with you, and items for storage...how in the world do you keep all of that straight?
My best advice is to make a list of what you want shipped in each shipment.
Start with what you can’t live without.
What you want to put in storage and then -
What you are going to pack in your suitcases.
Once you have a pretty clear idea of what goes where start separating items into different rooms.
Your Express Shipment Ships last. This is the shipment that gets to Korea FAST. It goes by air. These are the items you will need to keep to survive where you live now and they are the items you will need right away to begin setting up your new home. This is the shipment that should be about 1,000 pounds worth of stuff. This shipment ships later than your bulk shipment. You should plan on shipping this stuff 2-3 weeks prior to your move and then it should be in country waiting for you when you arrive. (This all hinges on if you are given enough notice to have multiple shipments! :o) Even if you don't have enough notice for multiple shipments I would FIGHT for an express shipment because you WILL need it.)
What do you recommend bringing in your express shipment?
Extra clothes (check out the weather in Korea so you are prepared for it!)
enough kitchen stuff to get you by for up to 6 weeks
shower curtains & rings
HANGERS! No joke - send a box of hangers!!
Vonage or Skype VOIP phone (if you want to inexpensive phone calls to the states & have people call you back)
How do you know what 1,000 pounds of stuff looks like?
Honestly I’m a bit of a freak and I put things in a laundry basket and weighed them on a bathroom scale. It worked well for me.
Main shipment (ships out first) - I sent this shipment out 8 weeks prior to our arrival and it was here in country 2 weeks after we arrived. That is right; it took 10 weeks to arrive. If you are moving during off season your things may arrive early – moving during peak season, you might be waiting much longer! I have a friend that it took 3 months for her things to get here. Be PREPARED for anything! (This is why you must FIGHT for an express shipment IF you are on short notice to move.)
Storage, anything you can live without for 2 years. Once things are in storage it is amazing how you realize you can live without them!! When we moved back to the states we ended up getting rid of more than 1/2 of the things we had in storage. This is typically the last piece of your move.
Who pays for storage?
If your soldier is in the Army, the Army pays for all storage - it will be stored where ever you are moving from. I’m assuming the same holds true for the other branches of the military.
How many bags do they let you check? Carry on? We have 2 car seats, a pack n play, bottles and formula. Do you suggest bringing those things and just clothes/toiletries on the plane?
Each family member can check 2 bags of 50 pounds each....the active duty person can have one bag that is 70 pounds and one that is 50. Each person can have a carryon bag as well. Honestly I wouldn't bother with car seats - now I know your babies are young and this might freak you out, but once you get here you don't use them if you don't have a car. You can't put them in cabs or buses or on the subway....this might be one thing you can do without - or you can have a family member send to you in the mail. If you feel you need them, bring them...but generally they are not used unless you have a POV. I might opt to send the pack n play in the express shipment. There is a loan closet & it is amazing how giving and caring the military community is here – let your sponsor know you need one when you arrive and I bet they can find one for you. Bring bottles and formula. They will let you bring enough formula on the plane for the trip, but they need to know in advance. Check the rest. Our commissary is totally stocked with formula. Bring clothes, toiletries...you will probably be in the Dragon Hill Lodge for a few days before you get to your house. Pack like you are going on vacation for a couple weeks.
I’ve heard you can’t shop at the Commissary, PX or Shoppette until you have your Ration Card. Is this true?
Unfortunately yes, BUT the good news is that there is a way around it! Just carry a copy of orders with you EVERYWHERE YOU GO! You can get into and buy things at the PX, Commissary and Shoppettes for 30 days after arrival if you have orders – and they must have the command sponsor part with your name on them. Easy as that. While we are on the subject, always having a POA on this post is a good idea too. Just sayin’ – you never know when you are going to need it.
Should I get my international drives license BEFORE I get to Korea?
Really there is no need. It is super easy here, you can do it on a walk in basis or you can make an appointment. But once again you are allowed to drive ON POST for 30 days before you get your international license as long as you are carrying orders with you.
Do you have more questions? Please feel free to submit them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer
them on my next installment of “What?! We have Orders to Korea?”
Good luck with your move and I look forward to seeing you around the peninsula!
I originally wrote this for Koreaye, another GREAT source for moving to Korea.
Click here to read What?! We Have Orders to Korea Part 2.